Why only individual thinking can reunite America

Thinking in teams is destroying American life

Timothy Snyder: Well, the whole idea of best interests in the question, "Why do people vote against their best interests?" is not an objective thing in nature. It's one of the very problems in the politics of inevitability, is that we think like economists and we say, "Well, everybody is rational in the narrow economical sense, everybody knows what's good for them." And that's just not true, or rather the ability of people to discern what their interests are depends upon a process of education, which includes not just reasoning mathematically, which is very important, but also it has to include some kind of humanistic side where people learn to criticize or think critically about what they hear, learn to make distinctions among various kinds of media.

Because that notion of "one's best interest" is not at all natural, it's the product of a certain kind of education. And that kind of education can be undone, first of all it can not be done, but it can also be undone, one can deliberately appeal to the parts of the mind which aren't concerned with the future, with math, with critical thinking, but to the parts of the mind which think in terms of "us and them," "friend and enemy," and you can draw people into these cycles. And the less—and this is how it fits together with inequality—the less people see a good future for themselves if they think in terms of interests, the more they're drawn into a different way of thinking where it's not about their individual interests, but it's more about feeling like they're on the "right team," they're on the "right side."

For a lot of people in the U.S. now I think it's a little bit like they want to ride the bench for the winning team. They know that things aren't going well for them personally, but they want to feel like they're on the right side. And that helps to explain the appeal of someone like a Donald Trump who, of course, himself is a failure but has the skills to present himself as a success and can get people thinking, "Yeah, I want to be on that team. I'm not going to do any better economically, but I'm going to feel better about myself, because I'm on the winning team, I'm on what it feels like the winning team." So the whole thing about best interests has to be seen as a project.

You have to educate people, you have to take anxiety away by providing certain basic things like schooling and pensions and vacations so people can pause and think a little bit about themselves and their future. If you don't provide those basic elements of (I would say) political civilization then people are too anxious, it's hard for them to get their minds around what their interest actually are.

And beyond that if you don't educate them positively towards thinking with both math and with the humanities they're not going to get there anyway. So it's a project. A basic thing that we Americans forget—and a basic thing that politics of inevitability shrouds—is that creating the individual is a project. It takes a lot of work to create an individual. I mean we want to have thinking individuals. We want to have people who know what their best interests are. We want to have people who go thoughtfully into that ballot box, but that's a project; we're not born that way.

I mean as a father I can assure you that we are not born that way. I think it's the noblest and best thing we do, to try to create individuals, but we can't just leave it to chance, and I think that's where we go wrong. One of the basic ways we go wrong with the politics of inevitability, we think, "Okay, automatically we're going to be those kinds of rational people," but we're not automatically those kinds of rational people. I mean the irony is if you want to create individuals who can think about their own best interests you have to, as a society, say, "We agree to make it a project to educate and form such individuals."

  • Inequality is the root cause of America's political circus.
  • Americans are sacrificing their future for their political team
  • To win against populism, foster individual thinking

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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